Zweigelt


Not that there’s anything wrong with cabernet, merlot and pinot noir, that is when they’re thoughtfully-made and well-balanced, but these admired grapes and the renowned wines made from them cannot be our be-all and end-all when it comes to beverages. Today, for the second Weekend Wines Notes in a row, I look at wines fashioned from other grapes, 12 this outing, including both 100 percent varietal wines and some interesting blends. We cover examples from various points in California, a pair from Southern Oregon, a wine from Portugal, one from Austria, an august Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany and several from Chile. As usual with this series, I forgo the details of technical matters, history and geography for the sake of incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my wine-stained notebooks, in order to pique your interest and whet your palate. Prices range from $15 to $75. Enjoy! (Moderately, of course.)

These wines were samples for review.
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apaltagua_grial_carmenere_2012_clup
Apaltagua Grial Carmenere 2012, Apalta Valley, Colchagua, Chile. 14.5% alc. Very dark ruby shading to a purple rim; smoke, graphite, mint, eucalyptus and cedar; ripe and spicy red cherries and currants with a touch of plums and blueberries; a sizable wine, very dense and chewy, packed with dusty, velvety tannins and flinty minerality, feels a bit rock-ribbed and clasped by iron, clearly intended as a privileged and long-aging expression of the grape; try from 2018 or ’20 through 2030 or ’32. Very Good+ for now with Excellent Potential. About $75.
Imported by Global Vineyard, Berkeley, Calif.
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Bonny Doon Cuvée R Grenache 2014, Monterey County. 14.5% alc. 270 cases. Medium ruby hue with a pale magenta rim; raspberries and plums, hints of tar and lavender, raspberry leaf and black tea; intriguing notes of red cherry and cherry pit; an aura slightly macerated and baked, with dried fruit and spices; wood smoke and loam; swingeing acidity and spare, slightly dusty tannins. One of my favorite wines to try every year. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $48.
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Bruce Patch Wines Carraras Ranch Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2013, Dry Creek Valley. 14.5% alc. 100 cases. A field blend With carignane, petite sirah and alicante bouschet, from vines planted in 1906. Dark ruby-purple; very ripe and spicy blackberry, black currant and blueberry, with a hint of boysenberry; notes of tapenade, fruit cake, tobacco and roasted fennel; lip-smacking acidity, tannins and loamy minerality keep it both lively and grounded; opens to touches of lavender, vanilla and cinnamon; finishes with notes of wild berries. A zinfandel that flaunts its purpose and struts its stuff but remains essentially balanced. Now through 2019 or ’21. Excellent. About $40.
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Marques_de_Casa_Concha_Carmenere
Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2014, Peumo, Chile. 14% alc. Inky violet-purple; warm, ripe, spicy and fleshy; plums, currants and mulberries, woodsmoke, cedar and dried rosemary; hints of black olive and bell pepper; sleek, slippery moderately dusty tannins; something not just robust here but wild, in its deep berry flavors, its dark, vivid acidity, its precipitous graphite character. Now through 2019 or ’21. Excellent. About $25.
Imported by Excelsior Wine Co., Old Brookville, N.Y.
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concha
Concha y Toro Serie Riberas del Cachapoal Gran Riserva Carmenere 2014, Peumo, Chile. 13.5% alc. Very dark ruby color; a warm, fairly generous melange of black currants and cherries permeated by black tea, tar and loam, cloves, allspice and lavender; framed by dusty, velvety tannins, an inky wine, opening to a finish flecked with cedar, black olive and bell pepper. Very tasty. Now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $17.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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esporao
Esporão Private Selection 2011, Garrafeira, Alentjo, Portugal. 14.5% Aragonez and alicante bouschet 40% each, syrah 20%. Inky-purple with a magenta rim; fresh and bright, notes of smoke, mint and graphite, spiced and macerated black and blue fruit; cedar, cloves, dried thyme and rosemary; robust, vibrant and juicy but stalwart with dusty, granitic tannins; pulls up green hints of olives and peppers and layers of leather and loam. Now through 2028 to ’30. Quite a performance. Excellent. About $65.
Imported by Adil Wines & liquors, New Bedford, Mass.
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gaja
Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta 2011, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany. 15% alc. 100% sangiovese. Medium-hued but intense ruby color; deeply dredged from the spice cabinet; macerated red and black cherries and currants, with all the sangiovese undertow of oolong tea, orange rind, lavender and rose petals, these qualities being hints within the elements of resinous cedar, iodine and a profound factor of dusty, granular tannin and oak; lithe, supple, muscular texture, ultimately well-balance despite the alcohol level and the wood-framed bastions. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2029 to ’33. Excellent. About $75.
Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Illinois
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heinrich
Heinrich Zweigelt 2014, Burgenland, Austria. 12% alc. Certified biodynamic. Medium ruby-purple shading to transparent magenta; immediate Spring-like appeal of lavender and violets, opening to spicy blackberry, currant and plum scents and flavors; a little smoky and meaty; lithe supple texture animated by bright acidity and mild tannins; dry finish brings in graphite and a hint of mulberries. Needs rabbit. Now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $20.
Imported by Winebow, Inc., New York.
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2014-POV-Front-Label
Renwood Premier Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Amador County. 14.5% alc. With 6% petite sirah, 5% barbera, 4% syrah, all from vines 50 to 103 years old. Opaque black purple with a glowing violet rim; black cherries and blueberry jam, mint, iodine, graphite and cloves; notes of lavender and bitter chocolate; very dry, enlivened by pinpoint acidity and founded on lavish, dusty tannins; a finish packed with granitic minerality, yet for all that, a classically-framed, delicious and highly drinkable zinfandel. Now through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.
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AMADO-SUR-MALBEC
Trivento Amado Sur 2014, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% alc. Malbec 79%, bonarda 11%, syrah 10%. Dark ruby-purple; first, lavender and tar, then notes of blackberries and blueberries, earthy briers and brambles, raspberry leaf and graphite with a hint of iodine; a dry, fairly tannic but lively and supple wine with lots of grit and bottom to it, entirely appropriate with hearty red meat preparations and pastas, or, say, a sausage pizza or bacon-cheeseburger. Very Good. About $15.
Imported by Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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troon mt
Troon Vineyard M*T Reserve 2014, Southern Oregon. 14.4% alc. 60.1% tannat, 39.9% malbec. 240 cases. Opaque purple center shading to transparent fuchsia; a beautifully conceived, well-knit, vibrant and vivid blend that marries mulberries and blackberries with dusty plums and brandied black cherries; plush tannins bolster firm but moderate tannins; clean acidity and graphite minerality cut through smoke and loam, mint and iodine and an overall aura of pure blueberry. Irresistible but with a slightly serious edge. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $50.
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troon tannat
Troon Vineyard Estate Tannat 2014, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon. 14.4% alc. 169 cases. Dark dark ruby hue; red and black currants, cherries and plums, loaded with smoke and graphite, tobacco and blueberries, brambles and pomegranate; very intense and concentrated core of lavender, iodine, mint and bitter chocolate; dusty, iron-like tannins coat the palate, allowing for a supple velvety texture midst the granitic rigor; and for all that, a thoroughly balanced and drinkable wine appropriate for the biggest and most robust red meat preparations. Drink through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $35.
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On February 22, for Wine of the Day No. 236, I wrote about the Pratsch Gruner Veltliner 2015 from Austria. Today, I nominate that wine’s zweigelt
stablemate, the Pratsch Zweigelt 2013, Niederösterreich, a wine, composed of Austria’s signature red grape, that at three years old is as fresh as a daisy and as breezy as, well, a Spring zephyr. Made from organic grapes and aged eight months in stainless steel and large oak casks, the wine offers a vivid transparent ruby hue that shades to a bright magenta rim; aromas and flavors of ripe and spicy black and red cherries, plums and mulberries are permeated by notes of smoke and loam, while on the palate pinpoint acidity and graphite minerality lend it liveliness and allure. The wine gains in depth and structure in the glass, building a surprising foundation of moderately dusty tannins. Mainly, though, this is tasty, attractive and highly quaffable. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $14, for a one-liter bottle, perfect for buying by the case as your casual house red.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd., Niles, Illinois. A sample for review.

When Gerhard Pittnauer won the 2014 Vintner of the Year Award in June from Falstaff magazine, a publication that deals with wine, restaurants and the gourmet life, in Austria, he was cited as an “avant-gardist” who makes “delicate red wines” filled with “character.” When I read the press release that came across my screen, I thought, “Well, good for him. I want to try these delicate red wines filled with character.” I made inquiries, wheels were set in motion, and I received six wines from the importer Savio Soares Selections in Brooklyn.

Weingut Gerhard und Brigitte Pittnauer lies in the Gols area of Burgenland, where eastern Austria is notched by Hungary. This is the wine region whence come the country’s best red wines and dessert wines. Pittnauer is run on organic and biodynamic lines. Fermentation is accomplished by natural yeasts, with no commercial inoculation, and no new oak is employed. Alcohol levels are low, 13 to 13.5 percent. “Delicate” is not necessarily the term I would use, rather “elegant” and “well-knit,” as well as earthy and profoundly unique. At least four of this group of six felt almost ferociously linked to their vineyards and the purity and intensity of their grapes. On the other hand, these are (blessedly) not spectacular, in-your-face, blockbuster wines; their making seems more thoughtful, careful and nurturing. Gerhard Pittnauer is dedicated to extracting the best qualities of the country’s traditional red grapes — blaufränkisch, St. Laurent and zweigelt — but he also works with pinot noir, which wines I did not get a chance to try. Altogether, this are fascinating wines that I would mark Worth a Search.

Image of Gerhard Pittnauer from rotweissrot.de.
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The Pittnauer Pitti 2012, Burgenland, Austria, is a 50/50 blend of zweigelt and blaufrankisch grapes. It aged 12 months, partly in used barriques, partly in stainless steel. This is the most uncomplicated and straightforward of these six red wines, though fresh and lively, vital and delicious. The color is deep ruby-ruby; aromas of ripe red and black currants, cherries and plums are permeated by notes of walnut shell, graphite and loam, qualities that persist on the palate and bring supple tannic gravity to dark and spicy black fruit flavors. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2015. Very Good+. About $16.50.
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The Pittnauer Heideboden Zweigelt 2012, Burgenland, aged 12 months in used barriques. The grape is a cross of Saint Laurent, itself of ambiguous origin, and blaufränkisch, about which more further on. The color is dark ruby-purple; this is a deep, spicy, woodsy elemental wine, brooding with notes of loam and mushrooms under the brightness of ripe black cherries, blueberries and mulberries imbued with hints of cloves and sandalwood. The wine is quite dry, firmly yet not aggressively tannic, founded on acres of briers and brambles and vivid acidity but never losing the grounding in ripe and slightly tarry fruit and never feeling rough-hewn. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2016 or ’17. Very Good+. About 19.50.
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The Saint Laurent (“Sankt” in German) grape is either a seedling of pinot noir or it’s not; the question may never be satisfactorily answered. It may have originated in France, and it is the most widely planted red grape in the Czech Republic. In Austria it comprises about 800 hectares, slightly more than 2,000 acres. The Pittnauer Dorflagen St. Laurent 2013, Burgenland, sports a medium ruby-magenta hue and enticing fresh aromas of spiced, macerated and slightly roasted red and black currants and plums. The wine aged six months in used barriques. This is an approachable and quite drinkable red, soft and pleasing in texture, but with the necessary stones and bones of clean acidity, moderate tannins and a hint of graphite minerality. It’s almost charming. 12 percent alcohol. Now through 2015. Very Good+. About $24.
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Here’s an example of what the right winemaker can do with a grape usually regarded as “light.” The Pittnauer Rosenberg St. Laurent 2010. Burgenland, offers an intense ruby-purple color with a shade of mulberry; ripe, meaty, loamy aromas of black cherries, raspberries and plums are packed with notes of smoke and ash, briers and brambles, all wrapped around — and this goes for the flavors too — a concentrated core of lavender, bitter chocolate, bacon fat and graphite. The wine is robust without being heavy or obvious, enlivened by lip-smacking acidity and slightly dusty, powdery, fine-grained tannins. It aged 18 months in used 500-liter oak barrels, a bit more than twice the size of the standard 225-liter barrique. Wow, bring on the rack of venison. 13 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $27.
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The name of the blaufränkisch grape can be translated as “blue grape of the French,” though precisely why is a mystery. In Germany, blaufränkisch is called, helpfully, limburger and lemburger; under the latter name, the grape in grown in small amounts in Washington state. The seriously dubbed Pittnauer Dogma Blaufränkisch 2012, Burgenland, is indeed a serious interpretation of the grape, displaying a vivid ruby-purple robe and rich, ripe, fleshy and meaty scents and flavors of black and red berry fruit. There’s no oak here at all; aging for 12 months occurred in stainless steel tanks. It’s an exceptionally spicy, lively and vibrant wine, and it brought to my mind notions of steak tartar or medium-rare burgers draped in melted Swiss cheese and laved with truffled aioli; you know what I’m talking about. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $33.
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The Pittnauer Pannobile 2010, Bergenland, is a blend of 60 percent zweigelt and 40 percent blaufränkisch grapes; it sees more oak than these other examples, 20 months in used barriques. With its racy, ripe, fleshy and feral character, its graphite minerality, finely burnished tannins and fleet acidity; its deep, dark, spicy black and red fruit qualities, and even something floral and evanescent, it feels like an amalgam — or an anagram — of all the wines mentioned previously. Although this is obviously a well-crafted and important wine, I prefer the Rosenberg St. Laurent ’10 and the Dogma Blaufränkisch ’12 to this Pannobile ’10 as being rather more distinctive varietally. Still, this is impressive work. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $37.50.
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